Posted by: Laura Frost on Thursday, March 4, 2021

Name:  Christopher “Pappy” Collins, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret), USAF
LT Class Year: 2019 (eLiTe ’19)
Company Name: US Air Force; MacDill AFB

1.  Tell us, why LTA?

As military, I’ve spent 30 years moving from place to place every 3+ years. Meaning, I’ve been in 20 homes since 1990! LT was a rare opportunity to finally learn and become immersed in my community which was impossible to do anywhere else I’ve lived. To actually meet and become friends with my community was unheard of for me.  Meeting well-versed and entrenched community leaders allowed me to learn not just from the program AND for my peers.

2.  For you, what separates LTA from other business leadership programs? 

Since I’m military, direct civilian comparison is difficult. But what I see now, as an alumnus, is a deep, purposeful attempt at revealing inter-connectedness of all things within Tampa. Really driving home our touch points, both obvious and not so obvious. Presenting to us how the bonds of industry play as much a part as the bonds of people. A leader has wisdom by virtue of experience; LT creates a repository of experience in its participants, members, and associates all interacting, who help bring the “knowledge” to others to be leveraged in their own professional lives.

 3.  Describe a time when the LTA experience impacted your life or career?

Right now!  As of the writing of these answers, I am now a military “retiree”; having served 30 years total… first as an enlisted Marine for 10 years, and Air Force officer for 20 years. I am on the hunt for my new career, and new purpose. I’ve chosen Tampa to be my home. Not only have my peers from LTA been a source of information and connection, they have been advisors, mentors, and teachers to me. They are inoculating  me as a new civilian Tampanian and newcomer to the business world. Their time and efforts are selfless.  They help guide my path as I seek an opportunity to lead within banking and finance, my current targeted industry. 

And even more so, LTA helped connect me with the right people for my daughter and son-in-law because they have now moved to Tampa since my wife and I are staying here.   LT connections helped lead both of them to new careers in Tampa. 

How are these connections not priceless? Imagine all that ability to make a difference for others!

 4.  What is an LTA benefit you wish everyone knew about? 

After LT, you immediately see the obvious; a larger “network”. But it is more than a network and not meant to be the takeaway here. The relationships you develop, based on shared experience, learning and belonging, create two things, 1) a never-ending path of learning and improvement, and 2) you are literally at the threshold of being a major, positive influencer for your community. Gone are the days where all you can say is, “I might know someone who may be able to help”. YOU are now one of those people, someone who can help; helping your business, another business or organization, an individual, a family, a neighborhood, and more. Your leadership ability brings you into the program; your experience connecting you to the community and its people makes you an influencer. What will you do with such a gift?

5.  Tell us about LT as a member of the military and how did Parke Wright IV play a role?

Great question!  So,why choose a military member for LT? We eventually leave, right? When I was nominated by my squadron commander, amongst my officer peers, and selected as the ideal representative, I was then vetted at our Group (a Group is several squadrons; 3-8 depending) competing with other squadrons. After being selected again from the Group, I had to be vetted one more time at the Wing with all other nominated officers from the other Groups (we have 4 Groups at MacDill). Receiving the Wing nomination, I was then able to apply and interview with the Chamber for LT ‘19. The Wing wishes very much to select an officer for more than whether we represent ourselves and the Air Force well; but also, if we will be a faithful advocate to our new friends, if we will bring the lessons back to our warrior brothers and sisters, and if we would be an asset to the community-at-large. It is considered whether the officer is likely to one day return to Tampa and call it home.

Every military LT member I know from the last 6 classes either has made Tampa home (like me), or is doing so once their military commitments elsewhere have concluded. This means we, as a city and program, are incentivizing and attracting career-long officers to stay or return to Tampa; to add to its core, a unique perspective of experience that will not only help us grow, but presumably add our collective experience to the fold.

Once I was selected, I was the very fortunate recipient of a military scholarship provided by Parke Wright IV; covering the LT tuition costs. Mr. Wright has close ties to MacDill, as his father, Parke Wright III, flew B-17 Flying Fortresses here in Tampa at Drew Field (where most of Busch Gardens now resides), and flew in WWII over the skies of Germany. Mr Wright IV is generous in nurturing relati­­onships with our local military and played a role in my decision to stay and work for Tampa.

 6.  Describe how the leadership journey will continue to shape you? 

It will continue during my current path of seeking a new career, and beyond; and more importantly, how I will then utilize my own influence to help individuals, organizations, businesses and the community at large as I seek paths, as a newly born civilian and Tampanian, to give what I can to our home and individuals. What LT and the community have done for me, I wish to do, as best I can, in return. So, I’d like to announce I will be replacing Tom Brady as QB for the Tampa Bay Bucs! Super Bowl LVI !!!!! Okay, maybe I’m not doing that.

7. Why are you called “Pappy”... tell us that story. 

I’m glad you asked.  Air Force call signs are given at naming ceremonies, and are usually based on how badly you’ve screwed something up, a play on your name, your personality, or just the whims of the drunken mob of pilots. Call signs have many purposes.  For example, security over the radio to protect a person’s name.  In debriefs, it  “remove rank” from aviators so they can  speak to each other as equals when reviewing the completed mission.  At debriefs, egos and rank  must be left at the door so we can discuss freely what we did wrong, what we screwed up, what we did right.  Debriefings are learning exercises to ensure safety in the air during training and during combat.  

There are many other traditions to how we get the names, keep the names, have those names changed, etc. When a call sign is given for reasons with stories, the story, traditionally, only needs to be 10% true for a name to stick. I was lucky to have two independent reasons; situational, AND a story. The sincere situation was, I was “named” after Brigadier General Gregory “Pappy” Boyington. A Marine Corps pilot in WWII and commander of the infamous VMF-214, the “Black Sheep”. “Pappy” Boyington was about 35 years old then. He commanded pilots that were average 21 years old. His pilots referred to him as “Old Man, Grandpa, Gramps, Grandpappy”. And that evolved to “Pappy” and stuck. 

He was “old”, a Marine, and a pilot. When I attended the US Air Force Weapons School, we received call signs upon graduation. I was “old” (38 in comparison to the other 25 year old pilots), a prior-enlisted Marine, and a pilot.

But you see, that name was “too cool” to give me. Pappy Boyington was a Medal of Honor recipient, a former POW, and fighter ace. So, the second reason I got Pappy….. it involves Vegas, a sheep costume, and cow bell. And you’re not getting any more than that!

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